Council President debate set for Oct. 8 on live TV

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

For the Transcript

For just the second time in the brief four-year history of Town Council form of government, there will be a three-way race for the top elected office in town, Council President.

In the first election of Town Councilors in 2005, Thomas Reilly emerged victorious from a field of three candidates including former Selectman Marty O’Brien and newcomer Barbara Survilas.

In 2007, Reilly ran for re-election against Brian Perrin.

This year, Worcester County Assistant District Attorney and newcomer to Winthrop politics Jeff Turco will face off against former Selectwoman Susan Bolster and Survilas.

A lot has happened in the first four years of the new form of government, including unprecedented cuts to local services, the passage of eight of ten override proposals last Spring, the refusal of the Council to extend the contract of the town’s first Town Manager, Rick White, and the selection of a new Town Manager this past summer.

With that said, the new Council President will enter office knowing that he or she will not have any influence on the choice for Town Manager and will be faced with the daunting task of trying to unite a Council that many believe is currently fractured.

The three candidates will participate in the only planned debate for next Thursday, October 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the WCAT studios on Winthrop Street. The debate will be televised on Channel 3 for all who wish to watch it, but there will be limited opportunity for spectators to view the debate in person.

The format for this year’s debate, as with other debates that have been run in the past will be for each candidate to take turns answering a list of ten questions that will posed by the sponsor’s panel.

Chamber President Paul Leavy will pose four of the questions, Transcript free-lance reporter and former editor Joseph Domelowicz Jr. will ask four questions and WCAT moderator and two-time former Selectman Ron Vecchia will ask two questions.

The candidates will each have an opportunity for an opening statement and closing remarks.

Turco, who will be debating publicly for the first time, said that he decided to enter that race because he feels the town needs new leadership and that his combination of experience and skills can be of help.

“I studied history in college and I believe in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who said that you choose to be a critic and sit on the sidelines or you can get into the arena,” said Turco. “I am choosing to get into the arena.”

“My approach to the debate will be to go in and answer the questions,” said Turco. “I plan to be prepared and I will answer the questions frankly, in a thoughtful, concise and honest manner. I hope to show the people of Winthrop what I am made of, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, why I am the best candidate in the race.”

Barbara Survilas said that, just like four years ago when she ran against Reilly, she decided to get into the race because, “I don’t like the direction the town is going in.”

“I thought I could bring the talents I have to the town and do it full-time, because I am retired now,” said Survilas. “I’m a think outside of the box kind of gal and I think that’s what the town could use right now. We have big city problems and a small town footprint.”

Survilas said that her goal in the debate is to go in as prepared as possible to answer the questions that might be posed to her, but she doesn’t expect perfection from herself or her opponents.

“I’ve been out on the campaign trail and I’ve been asking everyone I speak with what are the issues that are important to them and I hope that those are the areas that are covered in the questions,” said Survilas. “But nobody has all of the answers, so I’ll just try to be prepared and do the best I can.”

Bolster, who only served two years in office as a Selectwoman, because the change in government cut short her first term, said that she has decided to re-enter political life, “because I really want to be in that office to try and make the best decisions on behalf of the Town.”

She added that she expects her experience at Town Hall, albeit in a different capacity, will be her biggest strength in the campaign for Council President.

“I understand, from having been there, that things have to go through the pace they have to go through,” said Bolster. “But, there are also things that need to be fixed immediately, such as the funding formula for the Northeast Vocational School, and those things need leadership to make sure they are addressed.”

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